I have been thinking about Mother's Day. My mother loves to read. I have never met anyone who reads like she does. She reads six books at once, cross references, looks up, Googles, consults the gigantic, antique pulpit dictionary that stands in her study, laughs out loud, keeps a Jane Austen novel in her purse, remembers, re-reads, looks more up, finishes a book, starts a book, waits patiently while the animals sleep on the books and then reads some more. It is an extraordinary thing to watch my mother read.
She reads to music. There is always music in our house. My family is musical. Well, my mother and brother and sometimes my sister are musical. I am not. There is always music. As she reads she will stop and hold absolutely still to hear as Butterfly dies in Puccini's opera, the Count apologizes at the end of Figaro, Tosca kills Scarpia or Colline sings goodbye to his coat. She will play the trio of Rosenkavalier back to back twelve times and then re-read the history of Strauss. When I get into the car and discover the CD player volume is turned all the way up I know my mother was the last to drive the car.
My mother taught me to write. All along this funny, twisty, larkspur lane that has brought me to writing she has been in the background. When we were in the mountains in India my mother understood that we had to walk the long walk to the bazaar to get the next Nancy Drew because The Crumbling Wall had coughed up the clue sooner than expected. We were allowed to stay up all night reading. She knew it was important for me to find out if Scarlett ever wins Ashley and it just couldn't wait until tomorrow. A former professional editor, she would carefully sift my writing with ferocious, kind, precision, helping me to pull through the strongest threads. Looking back on it now I marvel at her patience. She wanted my fourth grade twenty-two page report on Sparta to be well written rather than just finished. "Is that what you really mean to say?" "Sort of." "Would you like to say it again?" and off we would go. I hear myself asking that exact question of my students in that exact cadence.
Once we could write our own papers she would try to stay up with us but fall asleep on the end of the bed with the dog. "So you don't feel like you are the only person awake in the world." She edited my novel. She is up to ears in research for the next one. She is endlessly fascinated by good stories and the people who tell them, write them, sing them, paint them, run them, dress them, and live them. It is an amazing way to read.